Armchair BEA Day 2 – What do Readers want?

I’ve been to several Author Events, in various different locations, in differing styles and different levels of “fame”. There has been only one author event that is definitely marked under the “downright awful” title.  I won’t mention the author, or where I met him, but all he did was read extracts from his book(s) in a low monotone voice and barely looking up from the page. Considering he was supposed to be a teacher, he was certainly lacking in the engagement department and he soon lost his audience, the majority of whom disappeared in search of alcohol, never to return.  I have no idea whether he twigged what had happened.

letters book readWhat do I think makes an event successful? That the author is engaging, articulate, willing to look the audience in the eye (we’re there to buy the book in the end, right?). I’ve had a warning that one relatively famous author was known to be a little “difficult”, but on the day was lovely, took questions, gave promotional info on her new book, and then signed everyone’s book (even chatting with the starry eyed fan who Wouldn’t Let It Go) etc. If that was “Difficult” then sign me up!

I’ve noticed that I can get tongue-tied with various authors, and it must be hard for them in return to make some kind of connection. Terry Pratchett signed for me a couple of times, and remembered me once (because of my unusual name) and was relatively easy to talk to. Neil Gaiman is harder to talk to because I’m such a fan-girl. Henry Wrinkler? The loveliest man I have ever met, I was the last in the queue in what I knew had been a hard day for him, so I just shook his hand and wibbled. Continue reading


Bookcrossing Unconvention – Back In Brum!

bannerlogo_world-librarySo the Bookcrossing Unconvention happened last weekend, held in Birmingham at the Strathallen Hotel. It’s the week before the Conservative Party Convention, which meant that space in the city centre was expensive and/or nearly as rare as hen’s teeth.


I got there around 1pm to help out where I could (watching handbags in the first instance as others came in with boxes of goodies). The rooms were made available to us at 4pm and it was then all hands on deck. A production line was set up to make sure the goodie bags were filled with pencils, quizzes, chocolate, maps, writing pads etc, and stacked in order.

The book buffet was set up, starting with my two bags of books, and filled with that of the early arrivals. Merchandise was set out, as were the lists for the Saturday night dinners, to allow for sign up.

6pm and the people started arriving to register. I sat in the lobby looking for people looking lost and directing traffic.   By 7:30, and the welcome message from Katisha50, and I was starving (I hadn’t eaten since before arriving at the hotel), so I left for the evening to grab some food in town – most people had already disappeared to do likewise.


Having thought that the talks started at 10:30, I arrived late into the talk being given by Katharine D’Souza and Fiona Joseph, specifically about women in literature.  Following a break for coffee, Simon Michael was introduced by Guy Fraser-Sampson and he gave a funny and interesting talk about his character (barrister set in 1960s London) and his future books.  Following a decent lunch provided by the hotel, we came back to Guy giving his own talk, followed by a talk by The Emma Press, and the publication of poetry books.

Exhausted, there was the final raffle, which had some lovely prizes – none of which I won, unfortunately, despite adding 20 odd tickets into various prizes.

Those who had booked rooms in the hotel disappeared for a lie down, and from 6pm we gathered in reception to go out to dinner. Having hoped to get 20 people going to the Chinese, we ended up with 5 of us (somehow I’d been nominated to lead the pack). We ended up being placed beside the kitchen, which another time I would have kicked up a stink about, but having messed them around with numbers a bit, I didnt want to throw my toys out the pram. We ordered the set menu for 5, which was tasty enough – though I did miss having chopsticks! We were out well before 9, and whilst pleasingly full, we were still exhausted, we agreed not to nip into Brindley Place for a mass drinking session!

Lots of photos were taken, items tweeted (under #bcuncon2016) and published to various parts of Facebook (Bookcrossing UK group for starters)


I did better this morning, and actually arrived before 10 am – unfortunately without breakfast, which I proceeded to have in the hotel. It was a reasonable breakfast, despite the lack of standard tea-bags!

One group left at 10, to do a small release walk in the Jewellery Quarter and stock some shelves in the OBCZs. Another one left at 11 to go on a trip on the number 11 bus, taking in places like Bournville. I stayed behind to help clear up, put stuff into boxes for delivering to local hospices, etc. We then took a short walk to find the buildings that inspired Tolkein’s Two Towers. I then went home for a nap, which never happened, and the others went off into town to meet at another OBCZ. I just couldnt face going back into town, so started tidying up and shelving books and goodies (after tweeting more photos!).

Overall a success, if rather tiring!

Bookcrossing Uncon: T minus 3 days


I joined Bookcrossing back in 2003 whilst living in Dublin, Ireland, after seeing an article in the Financial Times about it – it was this kooky idea of “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise”. (My “shelf” can be found here)

I then didn’t do anything for a year or so, but decided to go back to it – in part because I was reading a stupid number of books, but also I decided that I needed to get a better work/life balance, and wanted someone to go out drinking with. Books and alcohol seemed to be a perfect combination! I therefore set up BCIE (Bookcrossing Ireland), concentrating on Dublin as that’s where I was, and within 2 years, there was a fabulous crowd meeting on a regular basis, often getting very drunk in the process!

At the time the “Conventions” were only being held in the US, but the non-US people still wanted to meet up, so the “Unconventions” (i.e. “not-the-convention”) happened.

By the time I came back to the UK in 2006, I had already attended one “Unconvention” in Birmingham (2005?) and had met many of the bookcrossers that I had only communicated with on the forums. The Birmingham Bookcrossers allowed me to have a group of “ready made” friends which allowed me to settle back into the UK.   It’s also allowed us to support local independent coffee shops along the way, where they have allowed us to set up bookshelves (OBCZs) for the safe storage and exchange of books. As with many of the active local groups, there are monthly meetings held around the city, and we are currently meeting in 3threes in Martineau Place, Birmingham.

With approx 1700 books registered, and more released, I’m not the top of the list in terms of registering, capturing and releasing, but also not at the bottom. I have too many books for me to realistically pick up any more at any of the monthly meetings, but I do try and bring new books into the mix, to make sure there is something different.

I have been to a couple of Unconventions in the UK (couple in Birmingham, one in Leeds, and the Convention in London), but haven’t madeBook Buffet Table it to all. Often, by the time I got to find out I could go, it was too late to sign up.  However, I’ve managed to arrange to have the time off for the 2016 Uncon that’s happening in Birmingham this weekend. There are people coming from the UK, Ireland and Western Europe, many of whom I’ve met before and some that I haven’t!  

We have a number of local authors giving talks, as well as plenty of games (usually book related, naturally), goodie bags etc.

One of the things that happens is the “book buffet” table (see right), where the bookcrossers bring some/all of their available books, lay them out, and then the other attendees pick up the books that they fancy reading. Those that are left have, traditionally, been released on the Sunday during release walks, but as we are meeting the week before the Conservative Party convention, we wont be doing it this year, and will be using alternative arrangements.

If you want to know more about bookcrossing, or find out about a local group, there are a number of ways:

  • Go to Bookcrossing itself, and go to the forums
  • You can also find the official Bookcrossing group on Facebook.
  • If you are in the UK, there is a Bookcrossing UK public group on Facebook that you can join
  • If you are in Birmingham, there is a BCBrum group on Facebook (I cant find the public group link ATM, sorry).







It’s August so it must be Christmas

So, it’s mid August and therefore the middle of summer (at least here in the northern hemisphere). That means there are two states of mind that co-exist in the bloggersphere: First, there’s a general apathy going around and it’s not just with the book bloggers. I follow several bloggers in other niches, more than one of whom has voiced a dissatisfaction with blogging in general and their niche in particular. Specifically it is the ones that have been doing blogging for a number of years: there is a loss of impetus, and a loss of interest about what’s on offer/new/the spin they can put on things. It’s certainly something I’ve been feeling, as I believe it’s one of the reasons behind my recent lack of reading and reviewing (as mentioned in my reading update earlier in the week).
The second, perhaps opposing state of mind is: it’s 4.5 months to Christmas. This affects bloggers in different ways, depending on the niche. For crafters, there’s a case for “Christmas in July” which is when they start creating stuff ahead of the holiday period (and for the Yanks, it really means “Thanksgiving in July”). So: cue knitting, stitching, card making, scrapbooking and general craftiness in the summer months in readiness for the winter holiday season. (The item opposite is an example of the crafty things from Sandy’s Crafty Creations). The TV shows on the relevant channels start going haywire with offers for the winter months.    Thankfully the Festival Of Quilts up at the NEC at the beginning of August wasn’t primed for Christmas themes, but it could have been!  I haven’t done any cross stitch for months, and generally don’t make anything to give away. I am currently working on a quilt top, using some old fabric I picked up in the early 1990s (does anyone remember the pink themed Laura Ashley quilt fabric?!).

Continue reading

#FoylesBrum – Storybox Blogger Breakfast

I’ve decided to take part in more Birmingham related events, and talk about them, so I joined the Facebook group Brum Bloggers UK. One of the first events I chose to go to was at Foyles Bookstore which opened in Grand Central Shopping centre late in Foyles Grand Central Birmingham shopfront2015.

On the 17th July, the shop opened an hour early for a number of Book Bloggers, a week ahead of the kick off of StoryBox:

the interactive children’s and YA book festival taking place over three weeks across all our shops in London, Bristol and Birmingham.

Storybox will inspire children to create their own stories, whether they record their own radio show, make some new animal friends, meet their favourite author or learn to draw with a renowned illustrator.

Hosted by Andi, the YA/Children’s bookseller, there was breakfast (croissants etc), and a brief interview with @ChelleyToy (who I think I’ve met before at another YA Event last year), in her capacity as YA reviewer and award winner. There was the chance to come up with ideas as to how the team could work better with bloggers – since I’ve realised there was someone there that I know from twitter, but not in real life, then I think name tags could be useful!

foyles book bench #2

Foyles Book Bench #1


There are two book benches in store as part of The Big Read, which whilst pretty to look at, can be a little bum-numbing to sit on after a while!

Then there was time to browse the bookshelves and chat with other bloggers, and get 20% off at the till. I currently still dont know much about YA books – even though Chelly was raving about a number of authors, so instead I picked up a couple of books from the British Library True Crime.

BL Publishing haul



As part of the event, all the bloggers got a goodie bag (I’m a sucker for a goodie bag!), which included the chance for further discounts and free tickets, buttons, colouring pencils, bookmarks etc.

foyles storybox goodiebag

Reader/Blogger cons you WANT to attend in 2016

parajunkee blogger new year's challenge

Day 13 of Parajukee’s New Year’s Challenge and the question is Reader/Blogger cons you WANT to attend in 2016.

It’s still early days in the planning process, but in September 2016, the UK-wide Bookcrossing event will be held in my home town of Birmingham UK. It’s been a while since we held it, and we’re still trying to find a location, but should be fun.

People come from all over the UK, and from Western Europe, and it starts on Friday night with registration and games. Saturday is the main day, where there are authors, talks, games, break out sessions etc, and the all important “Book Buffet” table. This is where many people bring books they want to “release” (see the main site for rules) and place them on a long set of often 3, 4 or even 5 trestle tables.  People then mooch down the table and take away any books that take their fancy.Book Buffet Table

Places are booked in a number of restaurants around the city and people choose to go to one that’s to their taste and budget. These tend to be big groups and some people prefer going in smaller groups or on their own, especially when they’ve been in a big group all day.

Any books left on the book buffet table in the evening are then bagged up and then 2 or more “release walks” are held on Sunday morning. This allows for books to be left around town, whilst allowing non-locals to get a different view of the city they’re in. Sunday lunch time is when people start leaving for home. Naturally some people are able to make a longer weekend of it, and come before the Friday, or leave after the Sunday, as an excuse to take a long weekend somewhere else.

It can be hard work for the organisers, especially when money is involved and trying to get the best deal for the right money, but it’s lovely to catch up with people you don’t see too often!

Book Review: Rowena’s Key (The Golden Key Chronicles) by A. J. Nuest

rowenaskeyThe key would unlock his future and the safety of his kingdom, but he never imagined the sorceress would unlock his heart…

Antiques restorer, Rowena Lindstrom, finds herself the owner of an ancestral armoire containing a hidden key and a magic mirror leading to another realm!

But the handsome warrior prince waiting on the other side is truly the final straw. This must be an elaborate joke, right? As she struggles to discover the truth, Rowena learns Prince Caedmon Austiere needs the key to save his kingdom. In the end, she cannot deny him anything. Including her heart.

This is the first book in a series, and starts with Rowena regretting buying an armoire which certainly looked better on the internet but now it’s sitting in her bedroom, it doesnt look so good, even after a few drinks.  The back is warped, the drawers are swollen shut, and she is considering taking a crowbar to parts of it in the morning. There’s one secret drawer that opens however, which contains an ancient looking key. It doesnt open anything however, so she takes to her bed.

It opens more than she realises however, and she meets Prince Caedmon, the second, bastard, son of the King, who is as shocked to see Rowena (predicted to appear as The Sourceress) as she is him.

Despite not being the chosen one, it soon transpires that the legitimate Prince is not the one destined to work with the Sourceress to protect the kingdom from the enemy at the gates. Rowena and Caedmon then spend the next three nights locked in seclusion, where Caedmon is not allowed to tell any lies. At the end of the three nights, Rowena needs to decide whether she is going to hand over the key. She doesnt know everything, so her decision has to be made on what she has learnt whilst stuck in the seclusion.

The alternate world is sketchy in this story which perhaps isn’t a bad thing for this book – the story is restricted to the Rowena’s view through the mirror, which is fairly static in the room, apart from one wander round the room.

There are a number of extra characters – some better sketched than the others (Ollie) but this is ultimately about Rowena and Caedmon.

The last few chapters set up the story well for the following book(s) and does make the reader (me) tempted to read at least the next story in the series.  I’m being particularly vague here to prevent spoilers…..